Carissimi: Historia di Jonas / Cavalli: Missa pro Defunctis
Rogers Covey-Crump : discography

L'Oiseau-Lyre SOL 347 [LP]

Carissimi: Historia di Jonas / Cavalli: Missa pro Defunctis

The Louis Halsey Singers - Louis Halsey


Side One
 1.  Giacomo Carissimi - Historia di Jonas [24:30] 

Francesco Cavalli - Missa Pro Defunctis a 8 (beginning)
 2.  I. Requiem aeternam [4:35] 

Side Two
Francesco Cavalli - Missa Pro Defunctis (conclusion)
 3.  II. Kyrie eleison [2:55] 
 4.  III. Sequence: Dies irae [15:10] 
 5.  IV. Offertory: Domine Jesu Christe [3:50] 
 6.  V. Sanctus and Benedictus [3:35] 
 7.  VI. Agnus Dei [3:40] 


Polly Waterfield, Eleanor Sloan, baroque violins*
Mark Caudle, baroque cello*
Ian Gammie, violone*
Harold Lester, chamber organ
John Elwes, tenor*
Jean Knibbs, Rosemary Hardy, sopranos
Kevin Smith, Andrew Giles, counter-tenors
Rogers Covey-Crump, Peter Hall, tenors
Stephen Varcoe, William Mason, basses
The Louis Halsey Singers
Louis Halsey, conductor

*Carissimi only


Carissimi and Cavalli are probably the two finest composers of that era just after the birth of Monteverdi, which is generally known nowadays as the mid-Baroque. They were different kinds of men: Carissimi, the Roman teaching at the German College and turning Out pupils who spread his attitudes throughout Europe: Cavalli, the worldly wise opera composer who yet spent all his life in the service of St Mark's in Venice. Yet they have much in common. Both had a liking for splendour of sound in their church music; both wrote dramatic music, albeit that Carissimi's was cast in the form of the oratorio or religious cantata; both clearly were affected by Monteverdi; both, strangely enough, were capable of writing solid counterpoint in an age when it was hardly fashionable.

The works on this interesting record show their qualities very well. Carissimi's Jonas is a typical short oratorio, constructed from massive double choruses, measured recitative or arioso, and a fine lament (for that is what the central prayer ofJonah really is). Cavalli's Requiem was probably his very last work, meant for his own funeral and written for double choir in that oldfashioned counterpoint which seems to symbolize the Venetian recessional mood of the later seventeenth century. On paper it looks almost dull, in sound it reveals a sense of a personal relationship to death that is quite remarkable. It has its moments, not so much of drama, as of great intensity, as for example the chromatic setting of the "Ingemisco", but in the final "dona eis requiem" a confidence comes over the music that is very comforting.

The works, then, are fine, and it is to the credit of L'Oiseau-Lyre and the BBC (hurrah for this co-operation which is a highly sensible way of using the latter's resources) that they should be available even if they might appear rather erudite and hardly commercial. Of the performances, I find that of Jonas rather disappointing, largely because there is not much sense of dramatic pace, neither the grand lament nor the recitative achieving their full power - though the choruses are good, the final one being quite moving. There are imperfections of blend and occasionally of ensemble in the Cavalli, but these matter very little compared with the merits of the singing which give an excellent idea of the emotional splendour of the work. Where the actual recording took place is not stated on the sleeve, so it may have been in a church; but it sounds like a studio and a more atmospheric resonance would not come amiss in future ventures of this kind. And there should be more, for this will appeal to many who do not normally venture into the lesser known realms of the seventeenth century. D.A.